Some Points About Memory

Since the main point of this blog is on dealing with memories that I nominally shouldn’t have, I thought I’d post some observations on this phenomenon.

1. Memory is our primary means of understanding reality.  All sensory information is merely the eye scanning the page, but the “words” it reads are the things we see, hear, touch, taste and smell and the emotional impressions the sum total of these experiences create.  An event is seldom processed as it is happening, but rather each part of the event is parsed after it has happened.  Reason and logic can only be applied to what is remembered or known through recollection.  Thus the senses and emotions are only auxiliary to understanding what we gather to be reality; your eyes, ears, hands, and skin are no more a primary means of understanding reality than a car’s tires are its primary means of moving forward; the primary process, rather, is internal.

2. Memory is our primary means of understanding ourselves.  Everything we have done or said, everything we have been told about ourselves, every group we belong to and what these groups mean to us, every emotion that a given situation creates, and every thought that comes to us spontaneously is locked in memory.  It becomes our means of understanding our roles socially as well as our aptitudes, our abilities, our interest, our knowledge, and how others perceive us.

3. Memory is not always completely accurate.  Even memories from a few days back may misplace walls, tables, chairs, windows, or people, especially if the surroundings are not familiar.  The passage of time seems to increase this effect, so that memories obtained many years or decades ago may have profound inaccuracies.

4. Memory can be falsified.  Suggestion, wishful thinking, mental illness, and any number of other causes can create false memories.  However:

5. In its impression and detail, a false memory is often indistinguishable from a real one.  This is a fact of neuroscience; what we experience vividly in our minds, whether through sensory input or internal processes, becomes our reality.  Therefore:

6. To be of use, memory must be borne out by external facts.  A patently false memory can be disproved readily by the available facts.  However:

7. Even false memories can feature true details through extant schemas of what we already know.  Books, articles, and documentaries can filter in unexpected details that can later be recalled falsely as part of a personal experience.  Moreover:

8. Past life memories, if they exist, must be subject to the same vagaries as present-life memories.  It would be absurd to expect a past life memory to be necessarily more accurate than a memory of something that happened in one’s current life.  It is therefore important to consider how important certain misplaced details might be in light of the memory itself when there are inaccuracies; if one recalls the layout of a room to be somewhat different, but accurately describes a picture on the wall or the people in the room, then it is absurd to fixate on minutia that could be mistaken within the continuity of present-life memories.

9. Only you have ready access to your memories.  Only you can know what you have read, watched, and experienced and how that may relate to your memories, true or false.  These things in mind:

10. Even apparently accurate past life memories are inherently impossible to prove to anyone but oneself.  One can build a robust circumstantial case by displaying knowledge that they clearly have had no access to (as in the case of someone with no interest in military history suddenly recalling obscure facts, people, places, and things), but ultimately, it is impossible to prove to anyone but yourself that you didn’t know these things before hand.  Certainly, it is easy to dismiss the past life memories of others as fabrication, confabulation, or cryptomnesia because you cannot directly access the mind of the person experiencing the memory.  However:

11. It is reductionist to say those who recall something unexpected are delusional simply because their memories cannot be proved.  Remember that delusion is, by definition, a fixed belief that is demonstrably false.  Except in cases where a memory is held with clear conviction that is completely contrary to known facts, it would be an abuse of the word “delusion.”   Apparent past life memories could be rightly said to be a private conceit, however, inasmuch as any and all memories are ultimately private conceits by their very nature.  Moreover:

12. It is reductionist to say that a private conceit is of no use to the individual, since private conceit is a large part of the human experience.  To the individual seeker, the subjective experience has value.  Where the subjective experience does not have value is in manipulating the conditions of the present with precision; however, the manipulation of outside conditions is not the sum total of human learning and growth.  One must also muster the requisite emotional intelligence, for instance, for dealing with people who inevitably will experience the world through their own private conceits.  However:

13. It is deceptive to say that a private conceit “proves” anything or can be broadly applied to all people.  The private conceit of one person can only be the basis for a logically coherent system of understanding the world to that particular person.  Insights might be shared between people, considered, meditated on, and parsed for their consideration, but to be presented as proof or the basis for a trust-based belief system is an inexcusable deception.  Therefore:

14. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.  If it rings true for you and your experience or what you know, do what you will with it.  But I’ll never sell you any of my claims as 100% proven to be true because I can never make that claim honestly.  Even I am not entirely sold on them; I feel a certain degree of confidence that my memories of John’s life are legitimate but I can never be certain of them because they did not happen during a time when I was alive in the form I know myself currently; and as for the other lives, they fall victim to numerous nuances that cast all or part of them into constant doubt.  I’m not pushing any science or religion here, only my attempts to integrate my own private conceits.  Finally:

15. Be mindful of your own memories, from past lives or your current one.  Keep track of what you’ve read, watched, heard, or seen that might have influenced your memories passively.  Also be aware that others can actively plant suggestions in your mind that can influence your memories.  Be aware of the normal faults and limitations of your memory.  However, do not dismiss any memory out of hand that seems important; look into it and consider it carefully.  And do not dismiss memory as a source of information in a broader sense.  Take care of your memories and master the use of them, no matter what they are, because ultimately, memory is what has allowed you to survive in this world by making sense of yourself and the world around you.

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